BETHESDA, Md. (AP) — Steve Stricker hasn’t booked his flight to the British Open, and he probably won’t.
He’s at least contemplating a return to golf’s oldest championship.
“Ask me tomorrow, I could be going,” Stricker said during the U.S. Open. “Ask me another day, I could be going home. I’m leaning toward not going. I’m thinking about throwing in Greenbrier and then the John Deere. It’s a long trip and I’m not too fired up about it. But then I look at it, and it’s a major. And I should be going there.”
Stricker operates under a different set of rules these days. It’s unfair to label him as an American who doesn’t want to travel. He reached a stage in his career where he doesn’t always travel inside his own country.
Feeling as though he owed it to his family to be at home more often, he drastically reduced his schedule last year and became a part-time player. He plays the John Deere Classic the week before the Open because it’s the closest he has to a hometown event – and because he won it three years in a row.
Even so, there’s part of him that sees a major championship going on and feels as if he belongs.
“When I watched on TV it was like, `I should be there.’ Then I look at it like I’m not a full-time guy on tour and I shouldn’t worry about. I play the things I want to play. My kids and wife might come to Greenbrier. They wouldn’t come with me to the British.”
With a tie for 21st in the U.S. Open, Stricker has moved up to No. 124 in the FedEx Cup. He has never missed the Tour Championship since the FedEx Cup began, a streak that is almost certain to end. With only limited starts remaining – at least three, maybe four – he’s not yet a lock to qualify for The Barclays.
And if he does make it into the playoffs, odds are against him staying very long.
“It’s not a priority of mine,” Stricker said. “If I’m exempt for The Barclays, I’ll probably play. But I do have an elk hunting trip I’ve scheduled.”
He was supposed to go last year, but when he was runner-up at the Deutsche Bank and tied for fourth in the BMW Championship, it was worth playing the Tour Championship for a shot at the $10 million bonus.
That won’t be the case this time.
“Last year I missed out on it,” he said of the hunting trip. “This year, I’m going to be a part of that.”
EARLY START: The U.S. Women’s Open has been held before the men’s U.S. Open only three times, all of them in the South – 1996 and 2001 at Pine Needles, 1999 at Old Waverly in Mississippi.
Starting in 2018, the USGA will try to give the women a permanent spot on the schedule ahead of the men.
USGA Vice President Dan Burton said last week the 2018 Women’s Open at Shoal Creek will precede the U.S. Open, with practice rounds starting on Memorial.
“Making this permanent change allows us to elevate the visibility of the Women’s Open and provide optimum agronomic and playing conditions on a much broader variety of golf courses around the country,” Burton said. “We believe this will make our best championship in women’s golf even better.”
The next three Women’s Open will be in July in Pennsylvania (Lancaster CC), California (CordeValle) and New Jersey (Trump National).
This won’t be the first time USGA has tried to find a permanent spot on the calendar for the women. About a decade ago, it tried to hold it around Fourth of July. Among other things, it found that with families going to the beach or the mountains, it was difficult to find volunteers.
OPEN SPOTS: The Quicken Loans National, also known as the “Return of Tiger Woods,” also is a big week for major champions like Angel Cabrera and Geoff Ogilvy.
This is the first of three PGA Tour events that in effect serve as British Open qualifying.
The R&A has gone away from the 36-hole qualifier that it once staged in Dallas during the Texas swing in May. The leading four players from among the top 12 at Congressional who are not already exempt get into the Open, which is next month at Royal Liverpool.
Cabrera and Ogilvy have played every year since 2004.
The leading four among the top 12 from The Greenbrier Classic also get into the British Open, while only spot is held at the John Deere Classic.
On the European Tour, three spots are available from the Irish Open, French Open and Scottish Open. Edoardo Molinari, Matthew Baldwin and Danny Willett secured spots at Royal Liverpool last week in Ireland.
HER FAVORITE PLAYER: Lucy Li’s favorite player is Webb Simpson, mainly because The Olympic Club is her favorite player and Simpson won the U.S. Open at Olympic. So it shouldn’t be surprising that before the U.S. Women’s Open began, the 11-year-old said her coolest moment was meeting Webb Simpson.
How they met is even better.
It was the opening round of the U.S. Open, and Simpson said there several kids outside the clubhouse wanting an autograph. He noticed one young girl with braces who stayed there, not holding out anything to be signed.
“I said, `Do you need me to sign something?'” Simpson said Tuesday. “She said, `No, I’m playing in the tournament next week.'”
DIVOTS: Joe Ogilvie is sliding into retirement. His hope is to end his career at the Wyndham Championship. If he doesn’t get a sponsor’s exemption, he says his last event will be the Reno-Tahoe Open. The 40-year-old Ogilvie, with one PGA Tour win, is pursuing various business opportunities. He played his last U.S. Open and finished with consecutive double bogeys to miss the cut. “Finishing double-double is par for my USGA career,” he said. … The bidding process has begun for the 2022 Ryder Cup in Europe. The most recent winner was France, which will host the 2018 matches. … Four-time major champion Meg Mallon met with the USGA last week to explore the possibility of a U.S. Senior Women’s Open. The USGA has a men’s Open for players 50 and older. The only championship exclusively for women 50 and older is the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur.
STAT OF THE WEEK: The field at the U.S. Women’s Open averaged hitting 73 percent of the fairways, compared with 70 percent at the men’s U.S. Open. But the men on average hit more greens (57 percent) than the women (55 percent).
FINAL WORD: “I honestly believe the answer is no. And if the answer was yes, I’d still tell you no.” – Padraig Harrington, on whether poor putting is a symptom of age.